Rangers European Dream Still Alive - Villreal Match Report

Last updated : 23 February 2006 By Southside Johnny

Rangers 2 (Lovenkrands 21, Pena 81 og)
Villarreal 2 (Riquelme 6 Pen, Forlan 35)

Attendance 49,372

The Scottish Champions may have been up against
technically superior opponents – but on a passionate
night before 49,372 spectators the home side never
stopped battling despite being on the receiving end of
two contentious and critical decisions by French
Referee Eric Poulat who had taken charge of Alex
McLeish’s very first European game as Ibrox Boss, a
1-1 draw with Feyenoord in a UEFA Cup-tie of Season

Manager Alex McLeish made one change from Saturday
with Hamed Namouchi inexplicably replacing the most
effective and intelligent player in Scottish football
– Thomas Buffel.

On such occasions the home side is always taking extra
precautions in order to prevent the loss of a crucial
away goal, yet Rangers made a nightmare start in six
minutes when Dado Prso, so often a talismanic figure
for the Light Blues, inexplicably handled the ball in
midair following a Juan Roman Riquelme corner, leaving
M. Poulat with little choice but to award a penalty
that Riquelme himself converted.

The Ibrox men were up against it – and eight minutes
later it almost got worse when Javier Gonzalo netted
from a Riquelme free-kick, only for the goal to be
disallowed for offside.

The scores were level in 21 minutes when – out of the
blue – Peter Lovenkrands curled home a twenty-yard
left-foot shot following a mazy Chris Burke run.

Villarreal were comfortable on the ball, retaining
possession with their classic close-passing game. At
the heart of virtually every attack by the Spanish
club was the Argentinian midfielder Riquelme, a superb

The ‘Yellow Submarine’ regained the lead in 35 minutes
with the most controversial goal seen at Ibrox for
many a year, Riquelme’s cross breaking off Javier
Gonzalo into the path of Diego Forlan who was at least
SIX YARDS offside as he swept the ball into the net.
Unbelievably the French Referee and his linesman both
allowed the goal to stand.

Four minutes later at the other end Barry Ferguson was
upended by goalkeeper Sebastian Viera only for Poulat
to wave play on.

Forlan was a thorn in the side of the Ibrox defence –
in 41 minutes he was through on yet another Riquelme
pass only to see his shot deflected over by Ronald

The half-time whistle brought a crescendo of booing
down upon the heads of the match officials – and
rightly so, for their decisions had proved a serious
factor in the game.

Rangers restarted on the offensive, Alan Hutton seeing
his twenty-yard shot whistle just over.

Villarreal however continued to look the more composed
and dangerous – Forlan and Riquelme combining on the
hour only for Waterreus to deny the Uruguayan yet

The Ibrox legions were growing more and more restive –
with chants for the introduction of Thomas Buffel
growing ever louder – the Belgian being finally
introduced to massive cheers in 68 minutes, replacing

The Belgian would make an immediate impact,
underlining the sheer folly of the management in not
selecting him in the first place.

It was a superb run by Buffel in 81 minutes that
produced an unexpected equaliser – his shot being
deflected into his own net by Juan Pena.

Five minutes later Rangers were denied a stonewall
penalty when Prso’s back-header was blatantly handled
by Pena – but astonishingly M. Poulat saw nothing

There was more bad news for the Croatian in the dying
minutes when he received a yellow card for a foul on
Alessio Tacchinardi – a booking that means he will be
suspended for the second leg.

All square, and afterwards Alex McLeish summarised:

“It was a fantastic effort, but we can play better.
Riquelme was different class. We were never out of it
– the tie is still alive. We were denied a stonewall
penalty. Villarreal have the advantage of two away
goals, but it’s not finished.”

Chilean Coach Manuel Pellegrini, who has not had his
problems to seek in Glasgow, reflected:

“It was a very good game. We should have won, but can
finish it off at home. We should have killed the game
off in the first-half. Anything can happen in the

RANGERS Waterreus; Hutton, Rodriguez, Kyrgiakos,
Smith; Burke, Ferguson, Hemdani, Namouchi (Buffel 68);
Prso (Boyd 88), Lovenkrands (Novo 74)
UNUSED SUBS Klos, Ricksen, Andrews, Murray

VILLARREAL Viera; Javi Venta, Pena, Gonzalo,
Arruabarrena (Sorin 60); Senna, Josico, Riquelme
(Cesar Arzo 89), Tacchinardi; Jose Mari (Roger 83),
UNUSED SUBS Barbosa, Guayre, Calleja, Hector Font

REFEREE Eric Poulat (France)